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Philosophy of Biology

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Hello, I am a third-year undergrad in the States and was wondering about this forum. I am studying ecology, evolutionary, organismal biology (e.e.o.b) and possibly might double-major with molecular, cellular, and developmental biology (m.c.d.b) since there is only a small set of differing classes. Unfortunately, these are heavily experimental and lately over the years, I am become more interested in the theoretical/philosophical implications of the life sciences. So I am turning over to this forum to help get some perspectives on issues within particularly the evolutionary sciences (evolutionary population, quantitative, and molecular genetics, evolutionary ecology, paleontology, etc.).     One thing that I have been thinking about as I learn about the foundations of evolutionary theory is this notion, among many other ones, about selection. To explain further, in pop. genetics selection is represented by this coefficient, s, found commonly in places like the b ... (read more)
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In a recent article “From Sexuality to Eroticism: The Making of the Human Mind” I describe a new scenario for human evolution. Besides the well known topics of upright gait and explorative curiosity I dwell on the realm of erotic life. I do this in accordance with Owen Lovejoy’s pair-bonding hypothesis of human origins. In consequence of their upright gait early humans practiced frontal eye-to-eye copulation. In the beginning this was merely random and took place in the horde. But some females may have felt better with a specific male and thus looked for intimate relations with him. Here begins a sort of “emotional selection”, different from mere sexual selection for good genes. Through long-term bonds erotic feelings are intensified and extended onto higher-order emotions such as hope and jealousy. This scenario is confirmed by the fact that the development of the large brain of humans seems to be more in relation to emotional development than to techn ... (read more)

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Sorry for my very poor English but I will try to explain what going on in my mind.
What if we are same soul?I mean what if i and you is same so I ask you question and by answering me i am actually answer my self !
To prove my thuory imagine that you spliced into two parts, one part contain a: half brain, heart, stomach and every member of your body.. The other part contain half brain and an artificial members that makes you alive
My question is .. Where are you? Which one is you if  part(1) wakeup and looked at part(2) did that means part(2) know what part(1) thinking? Of Course no! But this bodies are you.
The same story applies to every life from human to alian.

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I am delighted that someone of Kitcher's ability has tackled the meta-ethical implications of understanding morality as an evolutionary adaptation. Further, Christine Clavien has advanced that good cause by providing an inspiringly insightful and clear review of important implications of his work. 

However, the science of the matter actually supports a much stronger hypothesis than Kitcher's "morality evolved to overcome altruism failures".That stronger hypothesis may have different meta-ethical implications.

Relevant criteria for scientific truth regarding morality as an evolutionary adaptation Include explanatory power for descriptive facts and puzzles, no contradiction with known facts, simplicity, and integration with the rest of science. By these criteria, a superior hypothesis can be stated as "morality overcomes a universal cooperation-exploitation dilemma by motivating or advocating altruistic cooperation strategies". That is, morality is composed of assemblies of biolog ... (read more)

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The metaphysical context of normative issues, public policy, etc, from the time that Darwin had just published and Christianity was only constructively recollecting what it feared it would lose, was provided by The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (Bergson 1932). The extent to which cognitive characteristics can be affected by policies, in his view, if I am correct, is determined by our "duality of origin", in which the knowing organism and the sensed environment reflect- and independently confirm each other. 

The evolution of human cognition or creative evolution as Bergson calls it, is like the intertwining of electricity and magnetism in light, reflectively sensing what is sensed and knowing what is reflectively known, unfolding in realization (know what is sensed) and intuition (sense what is known), valuing (intuit what is realized) and trying (realize what is intuited) and acting (try what is valued) and reacting (value what is tried), in interaction. This is mainly my own inte ... (read more)

Ok, I collected all the historical evidence I could find that Michael Behe should have considered before making his claims about mousetraps and irreducible complexity.

Some of you may get lost because of technicalities concerning traps or my rambling style. But the main result is that taking a closer look at mousetrap history reveals similar patterns as taking a closer look at some organism's natural history. In the face of this evidence ID proponents can only revert to the same old strategies of emphasising gaps in the record etc. as we are used from their dealing with biological systems. In my opinion, nothing of the suggestive power of Behe's mousetrap analogy remains, if the real historical record is brought into consideration.

In fact, Hooker's patent of 1894 alone suffices to destroy Behe's mousetrap case for irreducible complexity. For a short and simple blog entry concerning Behe's mousetrap nemesis see: < ... (read more)
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What is the role of memory in the dancing qualia scenario?

It strikes me that i cannot perform direct comparisons between my conscious experiences at different points in time - no more than i can directly compare my experiences to those of others.

In claiming that my experience of a red apple has remained the same "redness" over time, i must be comparing a perceptual experience *now* against the experience *now* of a memory of a previous experience.

The reductio asks us to imagine there being a difference in experience just due to differences in the material substrate of cognition. It seems plausible to me that when an experience is serialized while running on one substrate and deserialized while on another, the difference should go unnoticed. For example, the red experience of a neural system could be remembered as a blue experience when invoked on a silicon circuit, so that the comparison always succeeds.

Put differently, i wonder in what way the following scenario is not analogous to da ... (read more)
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James Fetzer’s recent article, “Evolution and atheism: Has Griffin reconciled science and religion?” (Synthese [2011] 178: 381-396) purports to offer a well-founded critique of David Ray Griffin’s philosophical arguments for “a version of theistic evolutionism that can do justice both to the facts that count in favor of evolution and those that count against the neo-Darwinian theory of it” (Griffin, 2000, p 243). Fetzer claims that Griffin’s detailed characterization of neo-Darwinism is inaccurate, “exemplifying the straw man fallacy, where an exaggerated version of a position is presented in order to knock it down” (p. 382). Fetzer not only makes strong claims for the inadequacy of Griffin’s work on evolutionary theory, but also asserts that Griffin has made fundamental errors of logic and argument and is not “morally justified” in holding the views he propounds. Fetzer’s article, however, fails to back up these claims.

Amazingly, Fetzer does not provide any evidence that he has actua ... (read more)
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There is an idea that species should be individuated by common descent. For example, the phylogenetic species concept (P weak) holds that a species consists of all of the descendants of any member, up until a speciation event. According to a stronger version (P strong), a species consists of all of the descendants of a single individual.

I wonder how people's intuitions respond to the following (empirically plausible) counter-examples.

1. Reproductive isolation A group G of organisms of species S gets separated from the others. G faces different ecological conditions than the remainder of S, and speciates. (That is, members of G cease naturally to interbreed with members of S.)

a. This is straightforwardly a counter-example to P strong, since there are several founders of species G -- their common ancestor belongs to S, or perhaps even to a predecessor of S.

b. This is potentially also a counter-example to P weak, since a founder member of G may have left offspring behind in S. Thus, not a ... (read more)
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I have two or three very general related questions.

It is my impression that epigenetic inheritance of traits or behaviors can span a generation or
two. Further, it is my impression is that there is a large number of rather complicated
mechanisms that are able to turn a gene on or off or modify the its "expression." That is,
a gene represents a probability distribution of possible outcomes that is constrained by
various external structures. The "totipotent" stem cells, for example, can give rise to a
variety of tissues, and just which one results is due to an external structural constraint.
My first question is, is this statement a consensus and is it accurate?

Now, Lamarckism seems to be limited to a situation in which there is actual DNA change
arising from the behavior or other external causes that would give rise to permanent
phylogenetic change other than random mutation. In the 19-20th century Lamarckianism
was out of fashion, but today there's some renewed interest in neo-Lama ... (read more)
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Design explanations are explanations, or maybe just arguments, addressing questions about why certain organisms have some traits instead of others. For example, since tetrapods have lungs but don't have gills, it seems reasonable to ask why. Design explanations attempt to answer such questions by looking at functional dependencies and integration between different traits in the same organism. For example, we might start by looking at the functional requirements for respiration in a large organism living on land, invoke the relevant laws from physics or chemistry or biology, and show that having gills would make the organism less viable. 

Wouters proposes a schema for design explanations. In my words:

1) Specify the organism's properties and conditions of existence.
2) Assert that trait T possessed by the organism is more useful than alternative trait T'.
3) Provide an explanation of 2).

I see 2) as an undue limitation. Contrasting alternative traits is a very important strategy but we could ma ... (read more)
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Here's an argument that Swampman has no heart.

When we look inside a human being's chest, observing "There's a heart there," we're only licensed to make this observation by our assumption that the thing in front of us--the human being--shares a selection history with other human beings. For it is this selection history--in particular, its tendency to preserve biological traits--that grounds our expectation that human beings biologically resemble each other.

But what if we are examining Swampman? In that case, we can't correctly assume that Swampman has a selection history in common with other human beings, and so we can't apply the generalizations we would need to apply in order to observe "There's a heart there." We may see something that looks for all the world like a heart, but nothing licenses the application of heart facts to that lump of matter.  For example, I can't predict from the external resemblance to a heart that the inside of the lump will hav ... (read more)
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Notwithstanding the arguments of Matthen&Ariew, there is still a simple and banal sense in which "natural selection is a cause of evolution". I presume Matthen & Ariew would not dispute that complex adaptations arise as the cumulative effect of the selection of genes. So the selection of genes causes the evolution of complex adaptations. 

As far as I can see, this claim is compatible with seeing the "selection" here as a statistical trend (or "outcome") rather than a causal process (or "force"). Of course, if by "evolution", one merely means "change in gene frequencies", it would be questionable to call selection a cause of evolution for all the reasons Matthen & Ariew give. But if one means "evolution of complex adaptations", selection most certainly is a cause, however one conceives of selection.
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Received views are an important part of our symbolic order. Once it becomes apparent that they cannot possibly be true, it is sometimes a valuable philosophical task to preserve them, since no rational and educated person could actually believe them. As an example of a critically endangered received view, consider Jerry Coyne's excellent book, Why Evolution Is True:
[T]he process of evolution -- natural selection, the mechanism that drove the first naked, replicating molecule into the diversity of millions of fossil and living forms -- is a mechanism of staggering simplicity and beauty.
The received view is that natural selection is a mechanism or process that shapes all living things, and that the study of natural selection explains a lot about the history of life on Earth. Natural selection makes it possible to treat the billion years of organic evolution as a coherent narrative, making biology an endless reserve of wonder, understanding, and enjoyment.

Matthen and Ariew (2002, e ... (read more)
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I would like to invite discussion on my paper, On Fodor on Darwin On Evolution, which is a critique of Jerry Fodor's Hugues Leblanc Lectures at UQAM on "What Darwin Got Wrong" (Fodor, forthcoming; Fodor&Piatelli-Palmarini). Jerry Fodor argues that Darwin was wrong about "natural selection" because (1) it is only a tautology rather than a scientific law that can support counterfactuals ("If X had happened, Y would have happened") and because (2) only minds can select. Hence Darwin's analogy with "artificial selection" by animal breeders was misleading and evolutionary explanation is nothing but post-hoc historical narrative. I argue that Darwin was right on all counts. Until Darwin's "tautology," it had been believed that either (a) God had created all organisms as they are, or (b) organisms had always been as they are. Darwin revealed instead that (c) organisms have heritable traits that evolved across time through random variati ... (read more)

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I do now know how much serious discussion among professional philosophers has been devoted Plantinga's argument that evolutionary theory provides an argument against naturalism, though I know it is widely heralded by many non-professionals who do not like evolutionary theory.

Plantinga's error is two-fold.  First, he fails to state his general epistemological position, and so leaves us wondering what he means by "truth."  Second, and more detrimental to his argument, he fails to consider the possibility of epistemological behaviorism.

Consider any of Plantinga's examples of how evolution might have one survive perfectly well with a set of mostly false beliefs.  One might, for example, run up a tree when confronted with a tiger, because one believed that this was the best way to pet the cute, furry animal.  Thus, one's actions would lead to survivale, but one would be acting on a false belief.

Under what conditions could we establish that this man believed one thing, and not another?  Wha ... (read more)
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Hello.  I would like to know what people think of this paper.  It is primarily a defense of computationalism against Bishop's use of the Fading Qualia argument to back his claim that "Counterfactuals Cannot Count".  It also constitutes an attack on the Fading Qualia argument in general, and can be taken to support an elimitivist view about qualia.

This short paper grew out of an email exchange which was really about mathematical platonism, in which I argued against the claim that partial brains (which can tend towards nonexistent brains) would have to have the same consciousness as a full brain.  I wrote it up as an entry for the Consciousness Online web conference, but it was not chosen.

I would also appreciate any suggestions regarding whether and where to submit it for publication. Thanks.
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